This Weekly Edventure is dedicated to everyone that, when asked the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?", spiraled into existential dread not knowing exactly what to say. For those who ask themselves this same question at five, fifteen, thirty, and fifty, and still find themselves grappling with the same answer every time: "I just don't know" — not because they don't have any interests, but because they feel like they have too many to choose.
 
This week, we connected with Emilie Wapnick, whose TEDTalk has over 6 million views, to learn that there's actually a definition for people with a plethora of interests and creative pursuits. Wapnick calls them "multipotentialites".
 

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A multipotentialite is someone with many interests and creative pursuits. Multipotentialites have no "one true calling" the way specialists do. Wapnick believes that instead of picking one thing and denying all of our other interests for the sake of societal structure, we can find ways to integrate our many passions into our lives.

But where in the world did this idea that we need a "special" to survive come from? There's a lot of talk that it's actually a side effect of the Industrial Revolution — and perhaps an outdated one at that.

Adam Smith, a Scottish economist and philosopher, pioneered discussions about this hyper-specialization and helped us understand where the power — and plight — of job specialization in the workforce has stemmed from through a really interesting model.

He talked about the power of a pin. Yes, a single pin.

You’d think it wouldn’t take much to turn a sheet of metal into a packaged cloth fastener, right? Well, as of 350 years ago, you’d have guessed wrong.

Smith said that as a result of the Industrial Revolution, we can turn what is a single person’s job (something like making a pin) into an eighteen person job (metal cutter, pin drawer, roller, finisher, etc) in order to form a more productive union. 

The primary significance of the "pin factory" model was to illustrate the benefits of division of labor. By working together we increase productivity and grow the wealth of society. 

It can also be a model to remind us that the rigors of specialized factory life can produce deleterious effects upon workers' intellects and psyches. I mean, one job? One task? We’re bound to get bored. Specialization as a side effect of the Industrial Revolution has made a lot of us feel limited by a culture that praises people for finding that “one thing” we're good at and sticking with it.  

Luckily, society is changing. More than ever, employers are looking for people with skillsets that encompass critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and information literacy – skillsets where multipotentialites thrive. So, when asked the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?", no pressure to say you want to be the pin "roller", or pin "box-it-up-er" if you're the type of person whose curious about how to make a pin from start to finish. The answer "I don't know what I want to be" is totally acceptable.


 

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ThisWeeksExplorations

 

  • Are you a multipotentialite? Subscribe to a weekly newsletter written by Emilie Wapnick which will include weekly tips to help you build a sustainable life around ALL of your passions.

  • Our brains are fatefully badly equipped to interpret and understand themselves. That's why choosing the right career can be really freakin' hard. 
  • What if, for a whole year, you stopped acquiring new things or taking on new pursuits. Instead, return to abandoned projects, stalled hobbies, or unread books and go deeper.

  • Did you know that building a creative and resilient team takes the same strategy as building a functional ecosystem? A lesson in how biodiversity enhances ecosystem productivity.

  • A video on the versatility of cheese? You gouda brie kidding me! 

  • According to Wapnick, multipotentialites are known for procrastinating due to potential boredom. It might be helpful to think of procrastination as a time to consider divergent ideas

  • Curious about the future of tech? Hear from Ursula Franklin, a 92-year-old scientist, philosopher, feminist, survivor, and epitomized transdisciplinarian.

  • Board Game: Power Grid supplies power to cities all over the world. If you are too busy focusing on expanding a single route, you might miss out on new technology (sounds like a metaphor to us!).

 

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  • Course: Interested in adding a little science to your soufflé? Investigate tasty chemical reactions in Molecular Gastronomy (grades 8+9)
  • Weekend Trip: Fenway Park + Museum of Fine Art — where taking a private tour of the oldest ballpark in America before heading to see some of the oldest art in the world is just another Saturday (grades 4-7)
  • Club: Spend the first half of the Extension Period making sushi before heading over to the Payne Whitney Gym for a game of 3v3 basketball (grades 10-12)
  • Course: Enroll in EXPLO Makerspace, where you learn how to build complex machines that express human emotion, enhance extraterrestrial travel, or solve international issues (grades 6+7)
  • Workshop: Effectively managing stress is an essential part of juggling a handful of hobbies. Learn Stress Management Techniques in order to gain clarity from a jam-packed extra-curricular schedule (grades 10-12)
  • Main Event: Confidently step on stage (or sit in the audience) at the Student Talent Show, where you'll showcase all of the hidden interests not yet revealed to your peers  (grades 4-78+910-12)

  • Workshop: Swim. Bike. Run… why choose just one? Complete your very first EXPLO race and become a triathlete in Introduction to Triathlon (grades 4-7)

 

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